Long gone are the days, when bub was placed on the back seat of the car in a bassinet. Not only do we now have access to state-of-the-art child car seats,
we now have car seats that can be used in each mode for much longer, to allow your precious cargo to travel safely for longer than was previously possible.
The law may still be behind as far as minimum safety requirements go, however, the law is a legal minimum, and should be treated as such. It should no longer be assumed that a baby will forward face the day they turn six months old (as our outdated laws state). Your baby now has the option to remain five times safer, for so much longer, by continuing to rearward face until they have reached the limits of their child car restraint.
Many people assume that their child may be uncomfortable rearward facing past the minimum, or that the tantrum they are throwing is because 'they want to face the front'. More often than not, neither is true. Read on for the breakdown between rear facing myth and fact.
A three year old happily rearward facing in the 'Millenia' by Britax Safe n' Sound.
Their legs touch the vehicle seat, doesn’t that mean they’re now too big to rear face?
MYTH. Legs touching the back of vehicle seat is not an indication of having outgrown rear facing mode of a child restraint. It is best to rear face until your child’s shoulders are level with the top of the rear facing height marker on your child restraint. It is perfectly safe for your child to bend their legs, hang them over the edge of their restraint or sit cross legged whilst rear facing, in fact, they may even be more comfortable this way – Think about the odd positions children sleep in, or the way they sit when they are playing eating or watching Tv. Kids are very flexible.
We’re trying to save some money so I’ve hired a capsule for 6 months, and plan on buying a 6 month to 8 years restraint when my child is 6 months old.
Even though these types of child restraints are marketed as being suitable for 6 months to 8 years, it is rare that a child under the age of 2 years will meet the entry markers on one of these child restraints. This category of restraint also tends to be very upright which may cause your child to slump forward or get ‘positional asphyxiation’ during nap times. This may be especially true if your child is unable to sit on the floor unaided for at least 5 minutes.
Generally a capsule is not a substitute for a 0-4 years convertible restraint. A capsule is still a great way to transport your baby without waking it during nap times, but it is still best to move to a 0-4 child restraint after a capsule. Many children will last until at least 3 -5 years in a good 0-4 convertible restraint.
Three across the back...all rear facing. The eldest child pictured here is seven years old.
My child hates the car, and wants to face the front.
It is unlikely that your child will be aware of the fact that there is an alternative direction to face during travel.
There are a number of things you can do to troubleshoot, prior to turning your child forward facing:
- Are your child’s shoulder straps coming from at or above their shoulders? If they are coming from below their shoulders, they may be causing pain for your child due to spinal compression.
- Is your child getting too hot? Wind down the windows, and let the car cool down before placing baby in their child restraint or capsule. Have you removed the seat hood (if fitted) shoulder strap covers or head supports? In many cases the extra padding can be removed if your child is big enough to fill out the seating area adequately. Check your child restraint instruction manual and ensure you follow the manufacturer's recommendations. Make sure that your child isn’t overdressed when in the car – Remember, a rear facing child restraint is often the last place for the air conditioning to reach.
- Is the child restraint installed at the correct angle? It is recommended that rear facing child restraints are installed at a 45 degree angle to the ground.
- Does your child have reflux or any other conditions, which may cause them discomfort? Consult with your GP to ensure that your child doesn’t have any underlying medical conditions.
- Have you tried using a mirror so your child can see you? Around 5-6 months of age your baby will begin to realize that they are not part of you, which may cause some separation anxiety. A securely attached mirror that is angled so baby can see you, is a great way to overcome this problem. This is also a great way to interact with your older rear facing toddler. Ensure that the mirror you select is designed specifically for this purpose and is able to securely attach to the car headrest or similar.
- Toys are also a great way to combat the problem of a screaming child. It is possible that they may be screaming out of boredom, or simply because they want to be able to move around and explore. Ensure that any toys you select are made of soft or lightweight materials.
My child is getting really big, and it is difficult to get them in and out of their rear facing car seat as the top tether gets in the way.
The best way to solve this problem, is to loosen off the top tether when getting the child in and out of the car. Just make sure you remember to tighten the tether again (only remove the slack, don’t over tighten) every single time you drive.
My child is constantly screaming everytime we go near their car seat. Surely that means they want to forward face?
Around the same time that your child realises that they're able to move around, they often begin to dislike being restrained in any way. This often includes sitting in the high chair or pram. They may be bored and want to move around. Of course, this isn't a suitable options whilst travelling in the car, so it is worth trying to entertain bub with some toys (no hard plastic), soft books, a mirror, songs, and anything else you can think of. Just remember "this too shall pass". They have likely hit a developmental milestone, and they don't know that there is any other way to travel in the car.
If your child is screaming in the car, ensure that their child car seat is correctly adjusted. Is it at the correct angle, excess padding removed hoods etc. removed? Are the shoulder straps coming from at or above the shoulders, with no twists? If your car seat has an inbuilt headrest, is it positioned above their shoulders? If baby is in a capsule, have they outgrown it in width? Many babies are much happier once they've been moved to a rearward facing convertible car seat, with additional padding removed.
Don't forget the car can be hot for a rearward facing baby. Point the air conditioning vents to the roof to allow adequate airflow to the back. Removing or folding back capsule hoods is a good idea to promote airflow as well. It may also be worth investing in tinted windows or a window sun shade to keep the car cooler, and reduce the amount of sun shining in your baby's eyes.
Not sure which car seat your child needs? See this post outlining the legal minimums vs best practice recommendations.
The information above has been provided by Child Safety Solutions in accordance with a best practise approach to child restraint safety. Images are inserted for information purposes and do not constitute endorsement of products featured within any image, or any associated company, product or service.